From The Capital, July 2009
Children's Musician Turns Fans Into Fellow Performers
By Theresa Winslow
The way Bridgette Michaels is going, she might have a full orchestra backing her by this time next year.
The Annapolis children's musician, who released her first solo CD last spring, has been turning fans into part of her act - adding bassist Tom Fetterolf and conga player Dawn Madak in the past few months.
"I like to be inclusive," she joked earlier this week.
As Bridgette and The Band, the group has played many venues around the city, and are even exploring an additional foray into adult music. "I think it's more fun for me when I have a band," Michaels said. "The music sounds much better; you get the bass in there and backup vocals. It's fun getting together."
Michaels still also does solo children's gigs, and regularly appears at Grump's Cafe with Madak."We love her," said Duncan Bradbury, who runs Grump's with his wife, Deena. "The little kids all hop around and dance around and stare wide-eyed. It's bright, it's fanciful, and it has that island ambiance."
The last part isn't too surprising since Michaels, 37, was born in Jamaica and grew up in Trinidad. Perhaps more surprising is the growth of her music career, which came about simply as a byproduct of singing for her two children, now age four and 20 months. Michaels is actually trained as a scientist, has a doctorate in oceanography, and teaches online college courses in physical science."I think it happened quickly; stuff just worked out," she said of her music. "I think this is good for me."
Michaels' first CD was called "By the Sea." Her second, "Dance With Me," was released in May and was also a solo effort. She's now working on one with the band.
"Dance With Me" features 11 songs, and among them is "Pirate," which is a tribute to Pirate Adventures of the Chesapeake. The popular children's business is run by her neighbors Mike and Emily Tomasini, and the couple uses Michaels' music on their cruises and sells her CDs."We go through quite a (few) of them," Mike Tomasini said. "(The children) like the music and I like it. It fits really well for us.
Drumming Up Support
Although Michaels is new to music as a career, she's been playing the guitar for more than 20 years.The same definitely can't be said of Madak, an Annapolis resident who never played drums before taking the stage with Michaels. They knew each other because their children go to school together.
"I think I can keep the beat to your music," Madak said she told Michaels after coming to a show this past fall. "She's very approachable and I knew she was getting started herself. Her music is very peppy and upbeat and it made me tap my toes."
Madak said she's been having a "blast" in the band, and her drumming skills have improved as she continues to play.
"I'd play with her every day, if I could," said Madak, who has four stepchildren and a 4-year-old daughter.
Fetterolf, a graphic designer also from Annapolis with two young children, has much more of a musical background than Madak, playing in several classic rock groups over the years. But he hadn't done anything recently until he sat down to talk with Michaels and Madak after a show at Grump's in the spring.
The next thing he knew, he was part of the band too." Just the way she can put words to music on the fly impresses me," Fetterolf said, minutes after he and Michaels finished playing a new song she wrote called "Belly Button."
The catchy tune is based on one of her children's fascination with that part of the body. Michaels gets a lot of her inspiration from her children, and parenting is a subject the entire band is quite familiar with. When they get together to practice, they often swap stories about their children, Michaels said.
Julie Davis, an Annapolis parent whose children are fans of Michaels, said that experience contributes to Michaels' success.
"She knows what kids like," Davis said. "(The songs) are cute. They kind of stick in your head."